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Visiting Saint-Lazare Railroad Station, Paris, France: historic terminal painted by Monet and others
Already firmly part of France's sometimes tumultuous history
This is today Europe's second biggest rail terminal. Saint-Lazare Station (French: Gare Saint-Lazare) dates from the first half of the 19th century. Having travelled through this station, and read something of its inception and development, one is conscious of its presence in French history.
Among other painters, Claude Monet (1840-1926) produced many canvases of Saint-Lazare Station, including the one in the main photo (above). This Impressionist view of the Station from underneath its main canopy seems very effectively to suggest a shimmering from the heated air but also evocative of the passing of the nearly one century and a quarter since it was painted: the work dates from 1877.
The current Saint-Lazare Station dates from 1867: an enlargement of a structure built between 1842 and 1853. Interestingly, this dates it before the sanguinary Commune events of 1871, when French people turned upon one another in a vengeance in differing interpretations to France's defeat at the hands of the Prussian army. I have supplied also (right) a photo of Saint-Lazare Station dating from circa 1868, and it is uncanny to think that these civil war conditions on the streets of Paris were yet some years into the future when the photo was taken.
The main architect of the building was Alfred Armand (1805-1888)(1). A previous station, situated a short distance away from the current structure, was opened by Queen Marie-Amélie in 1837 and later enlarged. This line ran betweeen le débarcadaire du Pecq, as it was called, and Le Pecq. The line was later extended to detinations in Normandy.
Even today, Saint-Lazare Station is known as the main rail terminus for the shortest sea route between Paris and London, England: which runs between Dieppe and Newhaven, with their onward rail links to the two capitals (2).
The main building is distinguished by somewhat ornate frontages in rue d'Amsterdam and rue de Rome, and by prominent, mansard roofing.
The Station now habitually carries 100,000,000 passengers per year.
June 4, 2013
(1) Other works for which Architect Armand is known include the Grand Hôtel (opposite the nearby Paris Opera), and various French railroad stations.
(2) This service has faced considerable competition in recent years from Eurotunnel.
Also worth seeing
The very diverse visitor attractions of Paris cannot properly be expressed in a few phrases, but these include: the Paris Opera (situated quite close to Saint-Lazare Station), the Eiffel Tower; Sacré-Cœur church on Montmartre, the French National Assembly in the Bourbon Palace; place de la Concorde ; the Madeleine church; ; the Arc de Triomphe ; and many others.
How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Paris (Aéroport Paris-Charles de Gaulle ), from where car rental is available; however, visitors to Paris may wish to explore the city via its excellent public transport system. The Gare Saint-Lazare has its own Paris Métro station; and Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport has a bus link to the Gare Saint-Lazare. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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